​​Norman BrinkerNorman Brinker


San Diego State University

Norman Brinker is known for founding Brinker International, which owns such popular restaurants as Chili's Grill and Bar, On the Border, Cozymel's and Romano's Macaroni Grill. The company has more than 1,300 restaurants in 49 states and 22 countries, with annual revenues of $3 billion

Mr. Brinker's rise from busboy to internationally renowned restaurateur began as a business student at San Diego State University. This student body president supported himself through college by selling cutlery door to door. Upon graduation he worked at an entry level position at Jack in the Box but quickly rose through the ranks to become known as the father of casual dining.

Mr. Brinker founded Steak & Ale in 1965 and took the company public in 1971, which was considered at the time a bold step for a restaurant chain. He later sold the 300-restaurant chain to Pillsbury Restaurant Group, the second largest restaurant organization in the world. In 1982, Mr. Brinker became president of Pillsbury Restaurant Group, which included Bennigan's, Burger King and Poppin' Fresh chains as well as his own restaurants. He left the company a year later to take over as chairman and majority owner of Chili's Incorporated. He took the company public in 1984 and changed the name to Brinker International as its restaurant portfolio grew.

Mr. Brinker credits his success to determination, passion, people skills and teamwork. He is also considered a pioneer in employee benefits and professional development. Every Brinker International employee has access to libraries of audio and training videos on subjects such as goal setting, sports psychology, and entrepreneurial thinking. Harvard Business School named Mr. Brinker Statesman of the Year, and he was selected in a 1997 Cornell University survey of 150 CEOs as their most admired mentor and role model. Cornell University also named Mr. Brinker the most successful restaurant executive.

In recognition of his lifelong commitment to excellence in business, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon Norman Brinker the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.